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 Safety of Dental X-rays 
 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Integrative Dentistry by . View all columns in series
Dental x-rays are vital towards the detection and diagnoses of not only hidden cavities, but also revealing a dental abscess, cyst or tumor. X-rays are also very important to determine the condition and health of the bone in evaluation of periodontal (gum) disease, and the condition of fillings, crowns, bridges and root canals. It's understandable to be concerned about the amount of radiation exposure during every three to six month dental check ups. Dentists are also very concerned about radiation exposure to their patients as well as the office staff. Modern dental x-ray equipment is programmed to minimize the amount of radiation emitted by using a special high-speed film, and covering patients with a lead apron during x-ray exposure minimizes the exposure even more. It has been reported that 18 dental x-rays deliver 56,000 times less radiation to a pregnant woman than an upper GI series taken by a physician, and 800 times less radiation than a chest x-ray.

The latest technology in dentistry is digital x-rays. These digital x-rays reduce the amount of radiation by approximately 80%, no chemicals are needed for processing and they are ready to view by the dentist within 3 to 5 seconds. Old dental x-rays equipment used to take up to 20 minutes to take one dental x-ray. A conventional dental x-ray utilizing modern processing equipment may take 15 seconds. This, of course, reduces the amount of radiation exposure.

The disadvantage to dental digital x-ray equipment is that they are very costly and the quality of the x-ray is not any better than the conventional x-ray. Although dental digital x-ray does reduce the exposure to radiation, the amount of radiation exposure with conventional dental x-ray is so low that the overall benefit of digital x-ray is minimal.

The American Dental Association recommends a full set of dental x-rays every 3-5 years and two to four x-rays every year. During six month check up two bitewing (these show top and bottom teeth on each side of the mouth) are recommended.

Make sure you understand what the reason is for taking x-rays at your dental visit. During your next check up (if it's with the same dentist you've been seeing), ask that he or she give you a clinical exam first to determine if you need any x-rays. Some offices take x-rays during six-month check ups prior to the dentist looking in the mouth. If you have no problems, and your dentist doesn't see any, then ask to not take any x-rays. For six- month check ups, you should not wait any longer than two years to take x-rays. Those that are at higher risk are women because of breast cancer.

Daily supplements of antioxidants are a good way to get extra protection against the effects of x-ray radiation. If you know you are going to have dental x-rays taken, you may want to take extra doses of antioxidants prior and after your visit for at least a week.

Herbs that may be helpful can be taken in tea form. For example, marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) steeped and strained, can be sipped before and after the exposure. Hemeopathic remedy Radium bromatum is formulated specifically for radiation exposure. Up to 10 drops or 5 pellets taken three times a day will also be helpful.

      
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 About The Author
Flora Stay, DDS holds a doctor of dental surgery degree from University of California, San Francisco. She is the founder of ...moreFlora Stay DDS
 
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